My personal relationship with social media is complicated. I’m forever deleting Instagram and Facebook, then reinstalling the apps on my iPhone again in moments of weakness. I’ve done week-long cleanses before, too, but my social media behavior remains mostly the same despite all that. Perhaps its the 2 years I spent working for a viral media company, but social media has become engrained in my brain as a necessary distraction and tool for living.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about the impact of social media on mental health — my mental health and others’ mental health — inspired by this New York Times article my mom sent me. In the article, the author shares that teenage anxiety and depression rates have increased in tandem, and perhaps in correlation, with increased social media usage. This bears out in my life, too: social media definitely makes me feel more anxious. I feel addicted to my phone — I can’t watch tv anymore without passively scrolling! — and I struggle with the constant need to compare my life to other people’s lives, even if that comparison isn’t a fully conscious behavior. If I post something and can’t look at the response right away, I feel deeply unsettled. It’s an addiction.
The other day I called Instagram “life porn” and my friends laughed, then agreed that it can be a momentary hit of self worth that pretty quickly devolves into a crushing anxiety that we aren’t pretty enough or fit enough or healthy enough or married enough or adventurous enough or successful enough, compared to everyone else.
I also know that I’m majorly reliant on other people’s approval, like it or not, and this is only made worse by social media. (“If it doesn’t get more than 50 likes, does it really matter?”) Platforms like Instagram and Facebook act as “try outs” our identities, allowing us to test parts of ourselves in front of an audience. Do they like the fact that I cook? (Answer: Yes, but only if the food looks fancy in the picture.) Do they like me when I’m hiking? (Answer: Yes, but only if I include a dreamy quote under the photo.) Are my Tuesday evening, makeup-free selfies okay? (Answer: Definitely not, that’s not cute.) But these “try outs” can leave us confused about who we’re supposed to be in the world. When we cling tightly to social media, we lose touch with what Brene Brown calls our kitchen table selves — the people we are when things don’t have to be curated or shiny.
Based on all of this crap, I’ve decided to turn off my Instagram and Facebook accounts for the next month. There are some great things about these apps, sure, but I want to figure out how to use them for good, how to be a voice of authenticity in a space where authenticity is less than easy, and how to stay sane while using them. I can’t figure that out while my brain is clouded with likes and shares.
My Favorite Green Smoothie
- 1 cup kale leaves, stems removed, torn into small pieces
- 2 T almond butter
- 1/2 cup frozen pear chunks (frozen mangos will work, too)
- 1/2 cup-ish coconut milk (add more if it’s not blending easily)
- 2 T unsweetened shredded coconut
Blend kale and coconut milk first, so you don’t end up with big leafs in your smoothie. Then add the pear and almond butter and blend. Top with shredded coconut and enjoy!